Working Through The Stack: AC Brotherhood - The Finale


Hey guys.  Guess what?  I FINISHED THE DAMN GAME!!!  About time, right?  After patting myself on the back and smoking a victory cigarette, something became abundantly clear:


The ending was, in its own right, kind of crazy and stupid.  At the same time, it makes me super curious about what's going to happen in the next game.  Let's be real:  they can't get away with that, can they?  CAN THEY?

In the last blog where I talked about Brotherhood, I mentioned just how much of a slow burn the game's story was.  By the time I finally got to Sequence 8 and 9, it felt like all this stuff was finally get rushed along.  The question I'm still asking is what the point of the game was.  Sure, I'm building a brotherhood of assassins and taking back Rome, but the way that the Borgias were used felt a little too contrived and convenient.  I've never had an issue with the way that Ubisoft Montreal has worked their brand of alternate history into the franchise before, but it's usually a bigger piece of the puzzle than just "hey, the Borgias are trying to take over Rome, and so Ezio and the assassins have to stop it".  There didn't seem to be a lot of ties to the Templars like I was hoping.  If anything, I can now understand why this was a bit of a "spin-off" per say than being straight-up Assassin's Creed III.

Nonetheless, I can say that I've gotten one game finished out of the stack.  Now there's only about 24 more to go...

Working Through The Stack: WWE All-Stars

As a child, when the arcade still existed at the Hollywood 6 next to the old Winn-Dixie on Loop 340, my brother and I dumped an unbelievable amount of quarters into four primary games:  Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Street Fighter II, and WWF Wrestlemania.  Actually, my brother probably dropped the most on WWF Wrestlemania when I think about it.  Every time he stepped up to the sticks and picked Razor Ramon, it was a guarantee that someone was getting slaughtered.  The game featured a massively over-the-top style (Razor Ramon's arms would turn into literal razors during a combo), but regardless of that, it was a great little game that we hold fond memories of.  With the release of WWE All-Stars, that little tickle of nostalgia puts a grin from ear to ear, as the game is easily something worthy of being called a successor to that fantastically balls-to-the-wall gameplay and level of fun. 
Don't get me wrong:  there's plenty of frustration to be had with the game when you are starting out.  Reversals are a timing-based thing, and even then, they seem miles away when you think you are hitting the reversal button at the right time.  You also have to deal with the AI being omniscient enough to hit at least 70% of the reversals he has a chance to slam, as well as take advantage of any cheap bullshit it can sling your way.  Regardless of those two problems, WWE All-Stars is a game that makes you remember wrestling the way you thought it was as a kid...or at least how I remember it.  These are larger-than-life, over-the-top caricatures doing insane shit and beating the fuck out of each other.  It has that feeling you first had when you were a kid and watched your first Hulk Hogan match, chanting "HULKAMANIA" alongside the crowd on the TV.  There's a magic in that which can't be denied.  Four of us sat around the big screen last night laughing at how ridiculous everything was, chanting along with the chants we know, screaming like little girls at how awesome moves like the Perfect-Plex and the Rock Bottom look with this almost NBA Street-styled craziness. 
Are there glaring omissions from the roster?  Yeah, maybe.  Ravishing Rick Rude, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, Junkyard Dog, Big Boss Man, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit (although that's kind of understandable, right?), Kurt Angle, William Regal and many others are not in the main roster.  Some are available through DLC, such as Big Boss Man and Chris Jericho.  However, the ends that justify the means is that the roster which does show up in the game happens to be a great mix of the best from the legends as well as the current stars of the WWE. 
It should be known though that WWE All-Stars feels like something that you either get or you don't.  It won't be for everyone...obviously.  Some people don't dig wrestling.  Other don't dig fighting games.  There will be people that bitch and say it features archaic gameplay design, that wrestling is fake and you shouldn't support it.  Hell, maybe people just don't like fun.  In the end, WWE All-Stars is exactly what I want it to be:  something where me and my friends can sit around, pass the controllers off, and laugh like a muthafucker at the insanity that ensues.


Knee-Jerk Reaction: Crysis 2

Playtime so far:  four hours of multiplayer, no single player 

Good Impressions  

  • The game is pretty
  • You can slide like in Far Cry 2
  • It's thoughtful to have a lobby that is specifically for those who are level 10 and under to learn how the game plays in multiplayer rather than throwing them in with the big guns and getting wrecked.
  • Multitude of nanosuit abilities in tandem with perks and loadouts offer a lot of variety...

Bad Impressions  

  • ...except for the fact that Xbox 360 is filled with 'tards that only want to camp in corners while stealthed...or sit on buildings while stealthed with sniper rifles...or want to noob tube while stealthed...
  • The hit detection is relatively weak until you get used to the handling, and even then, it still feels off sometimes
  • Rather unsavory and unstable servers at the moment.  Had a number of issues with Host Migration, disconnects, and hard freezes last night.
  • TOO MANY MENUS!  Slim it down and make it simpler to find the shit that I want to find.
  • The multiplayer feels like nothing more than an amalgamation of so many other multiplayer shooters rolled into one with this one sole "unique" thing:  the nanosuit.  It's not enough as of yet.
  • I can't count how many times that I've used Armor to survive a grenade from injuring me.  However, if I try to do that with bullets, the Armor seems far less effective?
  • What's the point of nanovision (read: heat vision) if you aren't going to let people always see stealthed people?  I mean, what's the point in a counter to a counter to a counter?  That's fucking DUMB!
  • My reflex sight disables my mobility by HOW MUCH?  One bar of mobility?  Yeah, because that sight is SOOOO heavy.  T_T  Seriously, encumberment in a game where I have a nanosuit that can generate a shield that allows me to withstand the blast of a grenade...or sprint at almost double the speed of Michael Johnson on a record-setting kind of fucking stupid.  Actually, take that back.  It's just fucking stupid.
  • Terrible UI with far more information than needs to be displayed, and most of the information is displayed in rather odd places.  Other games have done this better for nearly a decade.  Why the hell aren't you following that example...kind of like your X at the crosshairs for hit confirm (Call of Duty) or your slide (Far Cry 2) or your Halo-height jumping or your overshield or your active camo or the millions of other things you are ripping off?
  • Overblown audio mix and clipping issues, which pisses me off to NO end.  Particularly, the music as soon as a match is "Activating Session..." is the primary culprit.
  • Frame rate hitches suck

Overall Reaction:   Not impressed so far.

Maybe the single player will give me some better impressions, or maybe it's the fact that I find some of the physics in the game's style of shooting to be a bit wonky at times.  There were plenty of times that I'd lay an entire clip into someone from my SCAR...literally, a full clip and then needing to reload...and it resulted in no death.  Meanwhile, when I died, I'd check the Kill Replay and the enemy would spray 'n' pray with a total of about three bullets hitting me in the stomach, and I'm a dead man.  There's also this feeling that a lot of the stuff you would unlock before level 10 is kind of fucking useless.  Why would I bother using this holographic decoy when all he does is walk in a straight line?  Fuck, man.  Make him duck and weave, dive into cover, SOMETHING!  This is the goddamn future!!! 
Right now, I couldn't honestly recommend the game to anyone.  I'm no slouch when it comes to first person shooters.  I know my skill level, and I know that I fucking destroy people online.  I may just need time to learn the maps (which started coming around by the third and fourth time I played some of the maps last night), but there's a lot more that I need to learn before I can give a final analysis on this stuff.  I'll probably dig into the single player sometime soon as well, but who knows?

Working My Way Through The Stack: Torchlight

As someone who primarily plays games at work after hours, the chances of playing many of the latest and greatest that come out on PC can be a challenge.  When Torchlight initially came out on PC, it was a game that called to a strong pastime "addiction" that needed to be satiated: the addiction of hack 'n' slash RPGs in the vein of Diablo and Champions of Norrath.  These were two games that were rarely not being played in our house over the course of their lifespan, and in turn, it meant that getting my hands on Torchlight was something of a necessity.  Finally, the game has come to Xbox Live Arcade, and despite its myriad problems (such as massive frame rate issues and a cluttered inventory system), it is the type of game that makes you realize that...well...sometimes you just have to the beat the shit out of doods. 
It also makes you realize just how rare it is to see a hack 'n' slash RPG in this day and age.  The last one that I can even recall spending massive hours with was Champions: Return to Arms on the PS2.  Beyond that, there seems to be a strong lack of love for the genre since the release of the Xbox 360 five years ago.  Even a company like Snowblind, who made the Champions games as well as Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II, have found themselves moving out of the genre in some ways and instead focusing on something more akin to the third-person behind-the-back RPG style.  Meanwhile, all of us wait in anticipation for the granddaddy of the genre to finally release its newest installment.  Torchlight seems like the spark that needs to be lit in order to bring the genre back to attention, but is that spark enough in such a different gaming climate? 

 Call them what you want, but they are the same archetypes we all know from a million other games.
 Call them what you want, but they are the same archetypes we all know from a million other games.
Sure, the hack 'n' slash RPG genre has never been "mainstream" or "popular".  Despite any type of success story in the genre, it's always something that ends up being a bit niche.  Torchlight definitely tries to break some of those barriers down.  Tips can be given throughout the game by simply keeping the Tips option turned on in the options.  The controls are relatively simple on the console, meaning that it would literally take a brain-dead limp monkey only a few minutes to figure out "yo, hold the X button to hit shit".  The cartoony art style doesn't necessarily mimic WoW, but it does a lot of mirror it with a large color palette and an affinity for fancy loot.  Hell, the game is a small download size (something that literally surprised the fuck out of me...pretty sure it's less than 200MB) and only puts you back by $15.00.  If anything, Torchlight on console makes the hack 'n' slash RPG highly accessible to anyone even remotely interested in checking it out... 
...but it's still missing something.  Multiplayer?  That's an obvious given that Runic plans to fix with the sequel.  Originality?  Maybe, as the game borrows many of its gameplay and systematic elements from previous like-minded games like Diablo and Fate.  Regardless of either, that's still not what's missing.  As I continue to plow through all the game, it becomes clearer with every hour spent what the game is missing:  an identity.  Because of the lack of originality, the lack of multiplayer, and the lack of any truly great lore or settings that go beyond the stereotypical trope of RPG standards, Torchlight is merely just another hack 'n' slash RPG.  It's a good one, but despite the time-sink that is can be, it never really goes beyond being a time-sink. 
Hopefully, Torchlight II will take this much further and offer its own identity beyond "hey, we're another game like Diablo".

Working My Way Through The Stack: Bulletstorm

In the months leading up to Bulletstorm's release, there was a constant wave of "this game is too immature" and "this looks dumb" that churned a little too hard in my stomach.  It almost felt like audiences were saying that video games, especially those of the shooting variety, were not allowed to be *GASP* immature, raunchy, and goofball in nature.  Sure, we like to stand on our pretentious soapboxes and claim that games are an "art", that we want to be "taken seriously".  Oddly enough, this comes from the same group of people that...on a regular basis...find themselves posting internet meme pictures up, making dick and fart jokes, using a word like "Rapelay" for comedy, and generally are...immature. 

Now that Bulletstorm is out, it's safe to say that the opinions on it are divided.  Why?  When did we forget how to have a little bit of stupid fun?  The game is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, and if you honestly think otherwise, then you need to pull that stick out of your ass.  The controls are great, the Echoes and multiplayer mode are plenty of fun, and the main campaign never outstays its welcome while also constantly ramping up the action and pacing.  Moreover, there's actually a story!  Hell, the fine folks at People Can Fly went so far as to provide an explanation to the Skillshot system.  THEY EXPLAINED THEIR GAMEPLAY SYSTEM WITHIN THE FICTION!!!  Beyond that, the game is technically impressive in many ways, as it adds color to Unreal Engine 3, but the world that has been built is quite impressive.  Stygia feels like a place of ruin and devastation overrun by madness and despair.  If anything, People Can Fly has taken the traditional meathead shooting game...and made it worthwhile.
However, there are going to be nay-sayers.  There are going to be those that look at it as little more than "Duke Nukem reincarnate".  They look at it as "bro'd out".  They look at it with these judgmental eyes like they are somehow above it. 
You're not. 
You will lay claim to your Last Guardian and Zelda...even your Modern Warfare and Battlefield...but in the end, the level of pretentiousness you show with this seriousness that you believe the industry must have in everything they do only shows that we've lost our way.  Bulletstorm is less an interactive experience like many "games" we see and more of an actual GAME .  There is a points system.  There is the Echoes mode, showcasing leaderboards for those scores and grading your performance.  There's the multiplayer, which is a cooperative match of "yo, shoot the fuck out of things and work as a team to achieve a certain score or it's kind of game over".
If anything, Bulletstorm does what other shooters have failed to do:  it brings the "game" element back to shooting games.  It gives you the story you need, but it excels in the gameplay you want.  It offers a unique perspective on a genre that needs to remember its roots while still bringing some modern elements into the mix.  Most shooters are self-serious, but Bulletstorm is self-aware. 
If only they would've gotten rid of the thumb-sucking-pussy-behind-a-piece-of-cover-to-get-health-back mechanic and put in health packs or something of the sort (hell, make alcohol give me health back!), this game would've been a great throwback that still felt modern.  Even without that, Bulletstorm is easily going to be in my top five games of the year when award season rolls around. 
Thank you, People Can Fly.

Working My Way Through The Stack: AC Brotherhood

Recently, I ranted about how I can never seem to finish a video game anymore.  In turn, it made me take a serious look at that stack and say "fuck this, you're going down".  Finally, the assault is on and "The Stack" is being put in a katahajime where there will be only one victor.  That victor, ladies and gents, happens to have a beard, long hair, and a fierce appetite for Raising Cane's for the last week or so. 
First on the list is a game that I had so much anticipation for:  Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.  What was the original reason for stopping the game?  Well, aside from the addictive-as-all-hell multiplayer, the single player itself was just too much of a slow burn.  After almost five hours wandering around Rome, there was so much to do that the focus on story seemed completely lost at some point.  This time, after firing the game back up, story has been the main focus. 
Folks, I come to you now with a clear head and full stomach when I exclaim these next words, and please, pay close attention: 


 Thankfully, all this pent-up anger at lack of storytelling fuels my face-and-neck-stabbing.
 Thankfully, all this pent-up anger at lack of storytelling fuels my face-and-neck-stabbing.
It's beyond goddamn annoying that I have at least a good fifteen or so hours in this game or more and I do not feel like a fucking thing has been accomplished.  If anything, I feel like I just got out of Hold-My-Hand Land and now I'm arriving at We-Gonna-Throw-Tons-Of-Stupid-Shit-At-You Boulevard.  Don't get me wrong:  it's incredible the amount of depth that Rome has in it.  The sheer size of it seems incredible, and the architecture of everything is beautiful.  However, that same architecture also forces me to almost never use my horse, since he can't climb buildings and rock walls and every other vertical fucking surface they've planted in this game.  Hell, it's more worthwhile for me to just run across this massive field of grass to get to my next objective than it is to press Y, call my horse, mount him, and then fidget with the lackluster horse controls. 
When it all comes down to it, though, the only thing that I really care about is rarely being presented:  what is going on in the REAL world?  Ezio's world is interesting...I guess...but nowhere NEAR as interesting as it was in Assassin's Creed II (which some of you might remember me claiming as my Game of the Year 2009).  In AC2, things were streamlined in a magnificent way, and I always felt like shit was real.  There was enough bleeding through from the real world that it seemed like a solid and structured story.  In Brotherhood, things are a bit more freeform, since you can leave the Animus at any point.  However, you have to hunt down the story pieces in that.  If there was anything more annoying about the first Assassin's Creed than the repetitive nature of Altair's world, it was trying to find every piece of dialog with Lucy...or every little nook and cranny of extended story within the real world. 
I really want to like this game.  I honestly do.  However, if things keep dragging along at this pace, I'm pretty sure the only solution is going to be a bottle of hydrofluoric acid and gin.  The grating pain of that combination going into my gullet would be more bearable than trying to grind through all this bullshit just to get to the roots of the story that I want to see.  Ezio's world is fine, but that's not the honest reason that we play Assassin's it? 
Well, is it?  Maybe I'm playing it wrong.  Maybe I'm interested in the wrong things.

Illness Strikes...

So last week, I said that I promised that I'd be releasing my next installment of Digging Into Dead Space this week.  That was something I completely planned on keeping up with.
Then the weekend happened.  Saturday, in an attempt for me and the rest of those involved in my cousin's wedding to get some clothes for the occasion, we went to Austin for some vintage clothes shopping.  Along the way, I purchased a shirt, suspenders, a tie, some Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies, and a burger and fries from Fran's Hamburgers (where the slogan on the outside sign was cleverly stating that "A burger this well done is rare").
On Sunday morning, I spewed in the toilet.  Roughly fifteen minutes later, cold sweats and fever broke out.  I was sure it was the flu.  Over the course of Sunday, I felt somewhere between a donkey kicking me directly in the stomach and a hive of pissed-off hornets driving stingers into every orifice of my body.
Today, I sit here with a relatively large amount of pain searing through my body as it tries to recover from the insanity of Sunday.  Meanwhile, my stomach is fine and I haven't barfed since late Sunday night.  I don't know what happened over the course of Saturday into Sunday, but needless to say, it was violent like Inspector Tequila.  In turn, this has left me relatively nauseated and incapable of focusing for shit.
Long story short - I don't think the next installment is coming this week as well...which sucks.  The more this keeps getting pushed back, the more I'm starting to feel that the whole idea of it is becoming irrelevant.  With Dead Space 2 now coming about on its one-month release, I don't know how much longer it will actually matter.  Nonetheless, I'm going to be trying to put a piece together this week.  If not, I am truly sorry...and more than likely, I'll probably just stop doing the piece altogether.  If it does happen, then I hope you all enjoy it.
Much love, piece.


Digging Into Dead Space Coming A Week Later...

For those of you in the GB community that have been following my Digging Into Dead Space pieces, I'm going to have to delay the next entry by another week.  I'm super sorry about this.  Unfortunately, I've got too much work on my hands right now to really do the next piece the justice it deserves.  I also haven't made it any further in Dead Space: Martyr, and it feels like it would be cheap to simply go half-assed on it. 
My apologies, and watch for the next piece next week.  I promise...and I don't break those.


Why Can't I Finish A Game? Part Deux

In some previous blog light years before this one...or maybe it was a forum post...I mentioned that I'm terrible at beating games.  It's not that I CAN'T beat them.  It's that I get sidetracked far too easily.  With League of Legends coming into my life and filling that post-WoW-addiction void, it seemed like there wouldn't be much console time for me.  Of course, I'm on my third playthrough of Dead Space 2 now (Zealot, going for Hardcore after that)...and I also had no problem playing through the entirety of Enslaved once.  It makes me think "what are all these other games doing wrong?"  For those interested, here's a list of the games in my drawer right now that I have yet to actually beat: 

Like...seriously, folks.  I STILL HAVEN'T BEATEN THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2!  Why not?  Well, funny enough, I think I've compiled a rather comprehensive list finally of just why this is happening.  If you will: 
  1. Cut it out with the fucking long burn start-offs!!!  Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow are the two biggest troublemakers in this category, as the beginnings of the game seem like they take FOR-EH-VER to get going.  By the time they do, I'm already a bit bored with the mechanics at hand and just want the single player to finally be over.
  2. Quit having such compelling and excellent goddamn multiplayer modes!!!  Did you know that it's actually not difficult to find multiplayer matches Singularity?  Yes, you read that right:  SINGULARITY!  The majority of these games all have multiplayer components, and those multiplayer components are kinda fucking awesome.  If you keep making these incredibly deep multiplayer experience where I feel like a thoroughbred badass, how the fuck am I EVER going to finish the single player?
  3. Make your games a bit less convoluted and a lot more interesting!!!  Crackdown 2 has been in my 360, but it was nowhere near as gripping as the original Crackdown for me, and Metro 2033 just isn't grabbing me like I had hoped it would.  Hell, Just Cause 2 is a game where I just wanna blow shit up, not go through some dumb fucking story.  Seriously, make things a bit simpler in terms of story and scope, and I might be more interested.
  4. Make a better game!!!  Force Unleashed II, you are so short...and yet I cannot even be bothered to finish you.  Seriously, what a fucking disappointment.
  5. You're a fucking RPG!!!  Final Fantasy XIII, Fallout New Vegas...just...goddamn, there's too much shit to even THINK about doing.
So now that we are a month past the holiday season, how many of you are finding the games just piling up?  Is there a sense of dread coming over you that there will be games you still haven't touched come March or so?  Are the new releases from the beginning of this year going to be holding you back from notching out that long list?

Digging Into Dead Space: The Supplemental Materials (Pt. 2)

Hey folks.  Welcome to our second week of Digging Into Dead Space, your shorthand source for the expanded universe that surrounds this popular franchise.  Today, we'll be looking into the big instigator in the Dead Space franchise:  the USG Ishimura.  Let's cut the shit and get right to it! 
***WARNING!  This blog may contain spoilers to any and/or all of the games, books, comics, and other forms of media in the Dead Space universe.***

The USG Ishimura

Coming in at somewhere between a half-mile to a mile long, the USG Ishimura was the first Planet-Cracker class ship of its kind.  As The Resource Wars raged on Earth, the Ishimura was created in the hopes of solving the problem.  Its primary goal was to mine and smelt entire planets, while its secondary function was also as a high-end medical research facility.  The significance of the USG Ishimura is rather obvious to anyone who has played the video games:  it is responsible for the resurgence of the Necromorph contagion.  Because of an illegal mining operation begun on the planet Aegis VII, the Red Marker was discovered, having been buried deep by Earthgov years before in an attempt to hide their secrets.  This led to the Hive Mind being awakened, leading to a massive Necromorph contagion that led to the deaths of everyone on the USG Ishimura except for Gabe Weller.  Eventually, after the events on Aegis VII, a CEC crew aboard the USG Kellion consisting of Kendra Daniels, Zach Hammond, and Isaac Clarke made their way to the Ishimura in an attempt to find out why she had gone silent.  As Isaac Clarke made his way through the Ishimura after they crash landed into the docking bay of the ship, it eventually became clear that Kendra Daniels was working in the interests of the government all along in hoping to recover the Red Marker.   
The USG Ishimura carrying its tectonic load that destroyed the Red Marker after Dead Space 1. 
The USG Ishimura carrying its tectonic load that destroyed the Red Marker after Dead Space 1. 
After Clarke escaped from Aegis VII on a shuttle, the load of planet that was removed from Aegis VII by the Ishimura fell back to the planet, crashing onto the Red Marker and shattering it into shards that flew out to space.  Many of the shards hit and were embedded into the Ishimura, and the subsequent explosion on the planet sent the ship floating through space in the Aegis system.  Some time after, a group of illegal miners known as the Magpies shock into range of the Ishimura, and they decide to board the ship after scanning the ship.  Once aboard, they find shards of the Marker and begin to go crazy, with the only survivor sending out the coordinates of the Ishimura for the government to find it.  The first responding ship is the USG O'Bannon, which ends up suffering a less-than-optimal fate that leaves only four survivors after a shard of the artifact was recovered.  This leads Earthgov to send out a second rescue ship, which eventually brings the Ishimura back to the Sprawl, a massive colony ship run by Titan Corporation.  Oddly enough, former CEC employee and Ishimura contagion survivor Isaac Clarke also happens to be on the Sprawl, leading to the events found in Dead Space 2. 
The significance of the Ishimura is found in its "involvement" with every single event of the Dead Space universe.  Literally, it's one of the remaining consistencies in every story told throughout the franchise.  It is responsible for:
  • The rediscovery of the Red Marker after being buried on Aegis VII by the government
  • The original Necromorph contagion that has been spanning the universe
  • The death of protagonist Isaac Clarke's girlfriend, Nicole Brennan
  • The Church of Unitology's knowledge of the Red Marker's existence (as former captain Benjamin Matthius was a devout Unitologist)
  • The madness and insanity of the Magpies
  • The slaughter of the USG O'Bannon
  • The infection of the Sprawl, leading to the destruction of the Marker 3A
It is currently unknown if the Ishimura was destroyed on the Sprawl or if it has found a way out.  
Materials related to the USG Ishimura include everything in the Dead Space franchise, mainly focused on with Dead Space, Dead Space: Downfall, and Dead Space: Salvage.
That about does it for this week's edition.  If you have any questions or comments, please ask them or make them.  Next week, we'll get into the two biggest antagonists in the Dead Space universe:  the Black and Red Markers!